Ranch wife, camp cook, cowgirl and mom, Kip Calahan also sings sweeter than a cowboy riding night watch.
A resident of Southern New Mexico, she’s an ex-Coloradan who’s returned to her mother’s roots near Animas, where Calahan and her husband Richard, foreman of the famed Gray Ranch (now the Diamond A), live the life most of us just dream about.
Sagebrush, tumbleweeds and roundups aren’t images borrowed from a Western movie. For Calahan, they’re part of her life and landscape. “I might be far away from a lot of things, but I finally feel like I’m where I want to be,” says this unassuming woman with a voice as mellow as a summer wind and a heart as warm as sunshine.
Calahan began her musical career in a Las Cruces, New Mexico, band when she was 18. She then moved to California to see where her music would take her. Because of her persistence, the route led to Nashville, Tennessee, where she stuck out the hustle for six years, ultimately landing a job as coproducer of a Country and Western radio show in Kentucky.
When she returned to New Mexico, she met the man of her dreams in a town called Rodeo and agreed to follow him to the ranch that had been his home for 38 years. Not a bad move. Falling in love put her in the middle of one of the greatest ranching operations in New Mexico. Today, it’s a conservation easement run by a foundation.
With an uplifting voice that’s part country and an attitude that’s all cowgirl, Calahan writes about her life with authenticity and style. Her lyrics on Cowboys, Cowgirls, Roundups and Rodeos are fresh and her melodies clear. She was selected by the Academy of Western Artists as Female Vocalist of the Year and in 2003, won the Western Music Association’s Crescendo Award for Rising Star. Pretty good for somebody who decided that being a ranch mom just wasn’t enough.
Inspired by Western music mentors, such as the current female favorite, Belinda Gail, and the earlier legend, Patsy Cline, Calahan makes music that is timeless. She credits part of her success to her husband, who gave her many ideas. “But I can look out my window and get inspiration anytime,” she says. “The song ‘Fall Works,’ for example, was written while I was cooking for 12 cowboys.”
Calahan’s music is popular all over the world and enjoys airplay across Europe. On her own turf, her many bookings confirm that she’s a welcome act wherever Western music lovers gather.
Confident of what she has to offer, Calahan is inspired to go the distance. “I intend to sing for the next 20 years,” she says. That’s good news if you haven’t heard her yet and great news if you have.
Corinne Brown is a native Coloradan, Western author, staff writer for Persimmon Hill and fashion writer for Western & English Today and True West.